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Having grown up in the city, I often imagined what country life would be like. I dreamt of the quiet and peaceful settings, surrounded by nature. Since a very young age, my goal has always been to live on a farm and eventually open a sanctuary for neglected animals.
About four years ago, my dreams became reality when my family and I moved out of the city onto a small farm. It was only a matter of days after moving in that I noticed a tiny visitor living in our shed – a small kitten. I soon realized that this would not be the first nor last cat to appear on my doorstep, looking for a safe place to call home. Why are so many cats dumped and discarded in country settings, especially near farms? It seems to be accepted that they are meant to be “barn” cats, living outside, controlling the rodent population and keeping pests away. Is this truly the ideal life for our feline companions?
Life for Stray Cats
It is estimated that there are around 70 million homeless domestic animals living in the U.S., the majority of which are cats. While this number may seem steep, considering the fact that one un-spayed cat can produce 420,000 more feral cats over the course of seven years between her and all of her offspring, suddenly this number doesn’t seem so unbelievable.
Shelters across the U.S. are working tirelessly to help stymie the population of feral cats, but only around six million will ever find their way into rescue shelters and about half will be adopted. Sadly, this is a never-ending cycle. Every spring, the cat population explodes out of control, shelters scramble to save as many as they can, but the majority of these animals will be put down or left to fend for themselves.
In rural areas where people may let their domestic cats roam free outdoors, the likelihood that Mittens will come home with a litter of six or more kittens is much higher. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see boxes of kittens left in the lane way of a farm or country residence. Whether their previous owners are just naïve to reality or simply believe it is the best solution; sadly, most that cats find themselves in this situation will not survive more than a few months. They may succumb to the elements, become prey to foxes, raccoons and other predators or killed by a farmer that has no need for them.
In the four years that I have lived in the country, I have had several cats “appear” on my property, most in terrible condition and in need of immediate help. It is a continuous cycle with no end in sight. Of all of these cats, one stands out the most – Patch.
On a cold evening in the middle of winter, Patch randomly showed up on my property – he was young, thin and neglected. His previous caretakers had failed him and tossed him out from the life he once knew. He was quite feral and unapproachable at first. Asking no more than a warm place to rest and food to eat, I provided him with shelter and care. He would gladly accept his meals but remain at a distance. One night, everything changed.
From my kitchen, I could hear screams of pain and terror. I ran out the back door only to find Patch sitting there, covered in blood. He had been attacked badly by an animal and was in need of help. He knew to come to the house even though he had tried so hard to avoid human contact in the past. I looked after him while he recovered and healed – a bond began to develop and trust began to build.
He would follow me to the barn where the horses were. He eventually stopped coming back to the house and took up residence at the horse sanctuary that I run. After having him neutered, his wandering days were over.
Patch now lives at the sanctuary full time. He has quite the comfy lifestyle, including a heated bed during the winter months and constant attention. He is the first one to greet visitors and volunteers at the sanctuary, often following them around like a dog. Patch also has an amazing relationship with the horses. It is not a rare sight to find him stretched out, purring, enjoying a gentle grooming by one of the horses. He has found his place in the world. Despite living in a barn setting, Patch has a wonderful life and is well protected.
How You Can Help Other Cats Like Patches
Patch beat the odds after being abandoned and forgotten by humans, most are not this fortunate. Please spay and neuter your cats – do not contribute to the overpopulation problem that already exists. Do not discard unwanted animals as this is nothing more than a death sentence for them. Practice kindness and compassion by supporting your local no-kill shelters, rescues and other organizations dedicated to helping stray animals.
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” — Mark Twain